Henry Bennett, one of the leading contractors of Topeka, was born in Chicago, Ill., June 15, 1841, a son of William Bennett and wife, whose maiden name was Rachel Ludby. The parents were born in England, but they met and were married in Chicago, Ill., to which city William Bennett had come when a young man and where he died, in 1841, shortly before his son Henry was born. Rachel Ludby had come to America with her parents, John and Ann Ludby, when she was three years old. After living in New York city a few years, the Ludby family removed to Chicago, where they were a pioneer family and where both parents died. After her first husband's death the mother of Henry Bennett married James G. Appleton, who also was an Englishman by birth, and they resided in Chicago until their respective deaths. Henry Bennett had one full brother and three half-brothers, all of whom are now dead. He was reared in Chicago and attended the public schools of that city until fifteen years of age, when he left school, and after serving three years' apprenticeship at the carpenter's trade, he worked for two years as a journeyman carpenter in Chicago. This brought him up to 1861. In April of that year, when Lincoln issued his first call for 75,000 men to put down the rebellion, he became a volunteer and enlisted as a private in Company A, Chicago light artillery, in which he served for three months at Cairo, Ill., in drill work. Having been stricken with chills and fever there, he was discharged at the end of this three months' service and returned to Chicago, where he lay sick five months. Early in 1862 he reënlisted as a private in the Chicago Board of Trade battery, of which he was shortly commissioned as second lieutenant and with which he served until the close of the war, having by that time attained the rank of junior first lieutenant of the battery. The command first went into camp in Chicago, where it devoted three months to drill work. The battery consisted of 156 men and was commanded by Capt. James H. Stokes, an officer of the army, a graduate of West Point, and a thoroughly refined and educated gentleman. He was a native of Virginia, however, and all of his people were rebels, hence, though a fine soldier and officer he was not promoted to the rank of brigadier-general until after he had commanded the Chicago Board of Trade battery for two years and had given it one of the proudest and best records of any command in the Union army. The battery took part in all of the battles in the Army of the Cumberland, under Generals Rosecrans and Thomas some of the principals of which were Stone River, Chickamauga, all the fights that took place between Chattanooga and Atlanta, including the capture of the latter city, Nashville, and many others. The Chicago Board of Trade battery had been converted into a horse artillery after the battle of Stone River, and from that time to the end of the war it served in the Second cavalry division of the Army of the Cumberland. It took part in several perilous raids in the vicinity of Atlanta, among them being Kilpatrick's Raid, and when the war ended the battery was at Selma, Ala. Throughout that long period of active service Mr. Bennett escaped both wounds and capture.
After the war closed he returned to Chicago, where he engaged in a general contracting business, which he continued until 1876, when he came to Kansas and bought a half-section of land in Shawnee county, fourteen miles northwest of Topeka, where he developed a fine stock farm. In 1880, however, he rented his farm and removed to Topeka, where he resumed his former business of contracting and is now one of the most prominent and successful men in that line of business in Topeka or in the State of Kansas. He built the major portion of the asylum in Topeka; the one at Osawatomie; several of the buildings of the Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan; the city public library building of Topeka; remodeled the east wing of the state capitol building; built the Central National Bank; remodeled the National Hotel; built the Columbian Building; the Crawford Building; the governor's mansion; the new Santa Fe general office building: Grace Cathedral; the Copeland Hotel, destroyed by fire and its successor; the Gordon Block; besides many of the best homes in Topeka and several of the finest hotels on the Santa Fe lines, among them being the Bisonte Hotel at Hutchinson. He is now (1912) building at the corner of Harrison and Ninth streets one of the finest residences in Topekathat of H. P. Dillonand is also building a $30,000 addition to the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Topeka.
In the city of Chicago, on Dec. 13, 1866, Mr. Bennett was wedded to Miss Mary F. Vreeland, who was born in New York city, Dec. 4, 1842. Mr. and Mrs. Bennett have four childrenBelle, the wife of W. B. Swan of Topeka; Mary E., the wife of George B. Harrison of Los Angeles, Cal.; Henry, Jr., born Oct. 26, 1881, associated with his father in the contracting business; and John Albert, born Aug. 28, 1883, a civil engineer in the employ of the Santa Fe railroad. Both Mr. and Mrs. Bennett are members of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Topeka. Mr. Bennett is a Republican in politics, but is not a partisan, and is inclined to be independent in principles and to favor any measure for the benefit of the people. He is a member of the Masonic order, in which he has attained the Knights Templar degree.Pages 733-735 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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